Twain Blue

28 Mar

by Dave Jarecki

I mentioned to my boss some time ago that, in the hopes of spurring creativity, I needed to paint the one bare wall of my office blue. Being the staunch, business minded, well-to-do Republican creative director that he was, he relented. His subtle touch of Napoleon syndrome and the way his thinning highlighted hair barely laid over his larger-than-normal cranium gave one the impression that he was of a higher intellect. To even have approached him with such a request was a slap to his well-manicured ego. He was the former ad director for Mr. H. Ross Perot, prior to the pie graphs, whose once in a great while drink was never more than a house vodka cranberry or a Corona Light (I had no idea such an abomination existed). He was a type-A, right down to the worn armrests of his office chair in which he would franticly bob back and forth like a boy about to pee himself while waiting for questions, answers, or both. He wanted nothing of my blue wall. The office was intentionally white to fit the building’s existing décor, he said. Never mind the bizarre collage I’d started on the wall above my desk, that of nude postcards from Africa, cross-country snapshots and clips of President Bush stuck in odd facial contortions that made him look horribly incompetent, a trick played by our smart-assed media. The long wall to the right was to stay white. This remained so until the owner, with his penchant for manic fits of mischief, followed by depressive crashes that found him moping through the building like a man wearing soiled shorts, reminded both the creative director and me that I wanted my wall blue. This sent the boss into my office on a workplace Friday agreeing to let me paint it, so long as he saw the pallets before I wetted the roller.

I had forgotten completely about this, only once or twice since then bringing it up to Lady, jokingly so at that, as if she and I would run out and spend a weekend hour investigating the Home Depots and Sherwin Williams of the world searching for the perfect blue. I had gotten used to the white and didn’t see the need. When the subject was raised, usually coming from the mouth of the owner on one of his upswings, I shrugged it off and told him I’d be doing it shortly, figuring he’d soon forget.

At random, I found myself in a paint store. For no other reason but to feed my own curiosity, I made my way to the extensive racks of flowing paint chips to view prospective options. I’d given up on the idea of a blue wall invoking the muse into my copy writing schtik. How much creativity could I provide a place that asked me to write about the benefits of nutritional yeast, a blood pressure cuff that expanded to fit comfortably around the arms of my obese brethren, and a plastic chair designed by a ninety old man that flipped upside down and was meant to relieve lower back pain? If advertising was about duping the public, than working in advertising was about duping yourself: There really was nothing out there.

I sifted through the blues as if searching for an old shirt that I hadn’t seen in some time. I didn’t actually want to wear the shirt. I merely wanted to see if it was still there. Cobalt blue, a grayish that I’ve used to describe Lady’s eyes. Starry night blue, dark and foreboding. The noteworthy Crayola blues of youth, navy and royal. Late day blue, a newer one I supposed. Cornflower blue, a trip toward white. Twain blue. Twain blue? I looked again. As in Mark Twain? I wasn’t sure. Why Twain blue? For Twain I saw red, like the tie I’ve always seen him depicted as having worn. Or another color, somewhere on the wheel between yellow and brown and belonging to the banks of the Reconstruction-era Mississippi. I didn’t know much Twain, having read only bits of what I was prescribed during adolescence and never being much a fan of Huck and Tom. Perhaps if I knew Twain, I’d understand the blue. For me, blue belonged more to Kerouac, with his Book of Blues, the blue skies under which he wandered, and his soul, crying out blue for mankind, the blue jazz of his America.

I contemplated bringing the chips back to the office as a means of opening another series of meaningless debates between the creative director and myself, but rather returned them to their rightful racks. I still had no intention of painting the wall. I was more consumed with the idea of Twain blue. Were all noteworthy American writers designated with a color? What would Hemingway receive? I saw green, for The Green Hills of Africa, or the green hardcover book of his I was reading, even green representing the excesses of the 20s from which he was lost. Or would Fitzgerald be green, for the green light on the other end of Gatsby’s harbor? Would Jack London be white, for White Fang or the grayish white of a sled dog’s coat or the color of San Francisco buried in ash? I was told that Nabakov chose colors of books based on how they felt. For him I saw yellow, though I didn’t know why.

Was Twain pure chance? Perhaps someone was feeling literary that day in the naming room of the paint factory where the chips were created and the paint’s dye formulated. Who said it had anything to do with Mark Twain the writer? As a noun, twain meant two, a couple, a pair. Perhaps Twain blue was the product of two distinct blues, a dark and a light, the marriage of midnight and morning.

How would Twain feel if he knew of Twain blue? I imagine, presuming the writer came before the hue, he’d take it one of two ways: another sign of literary immortality, to have a color named in one’s behalf, or pure gratuitous use of an identity, something to make Samuel Langhorne Clemens shake his head. Then again, perhaps it was simply the product of some invisible copywriter scraping around on the bottom of his tank of clever ideas.

A Young Artist on Brady Street

11 Jan

A Young Artist on Brady Street

by Dave Jarecki

I wished we had gone home. I could almost see the apartment where we used to live, right off Brady St. We turned right rather than jetting across, moving away from the old nest and down Brady. We passed houses where I didn’t know a soul. Not a door to knock on. My bowels were on the brink of meltdown. I was looking for anything, a port-a-john, a bucket, a corner, where I could let them go.

I told Lady and Ben, her younger brother, the soon to be a world-renowned artist, who, at 16, was unable to grasp his own talent, to walk on. I ducked into the laundromat and prayed the one bathroom was open. It was. The door revealed a yellowish light, a dank pit in the night, a frightening, syphilitic toilet bowl.

There was no time to wipe a clean spot. I tried anyway, even with my pants on their way toward my ankles, on the brink of explosion. I squatted finally and let the mess blow out of me. Mud. From the salmon or sushi or a combination of the both. It didn’t matter. Eventually the squat gave out. I sat. Comfort at a cost. If ever I was to be diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease, I will think back to this night, and blame the scabbed, pussing toilet.

I rose relieved though not fully finished. The sound of keys jingling outside roused me. I knew the laundromat would be closing soon. I walked out to a Mexican couple hauling in four bags of rags and clothes. I exited into the night without them seeing the lunatic stumbling out of the bathroom in the throws of digestive malfunction.

I hadn’t noticed earlier how beautiful it had become. A westward breeze moved in from the lake. Rain was forthcoming. The street swelled with music and movement. Harley-Davidsons kicked along the strip. Uncovered jeeps blared bass, hip-hop, jungle. Clamor raised form inside the open doors of over-priced restaurants and low-end bars.

I found Lady sitting alone at a green plastic table outside the coffee shop. She was twisting open the cap to some sort of orange, carbonated beverage.

“Where’s Ben?” I asked. She began before my words were finished.

“Someone just offered Ben weed. Isn’t that hilarious?”

“Never happened to me,” I said. Lady laughed.

Ben came out of the coffee shop carrying a piece of cake and swirling a to-go cup.

“Espresso,” he said. “Want some cake?”

He was a young man of few words. Whatever he had to say usually came out in his paintings; seascapes, mountain views, still-lifes. He had presented us with two new pieces upon his arrival: a winter landscape of a pink and gray walkway passing through a row of naked trees, and a dripping rust colored abstract that seemed to mask a giant right hand, reminiscent of Jackson Pollock, an artist he had never heard of. Both were beautiful. Ben didn’t even know. “How’s the weed?” I asked.

“Oh yeah, some guy, this kid, right, he , like, had a fro and all. He just came up to me and said, ‘Hey man, want some weed?’ Isn’t that crazy?” He laughed. When he did talk, the words came out in a spastic, intelligent fashion. He gulped his espresso as if it was root beer. Lady laughed through a sip of her orange drink.

“Hey, how’s your stomach?” he asked. He pushed the cake toward me. I picked a piece.

“I think my colon fell out,” I said. The splash in the toilet had been horrific. I had the displeasure of glimpsing the release through my squat.

“Ah, that’s funny. I mean, not really, but yeah, you were really walking fast,” he said. His innocence amazed me.

“I nearly shat myself crossing the street,” I said. He laughed with the espresso raised to his chin.

Bodies lumbered along Brady beneath the lights. The blues bar next door was heating up. Lady and I swatted at giant Wisconsin mosquitoes. Ben looked around in his seat at the life, the bikes, the tight clothes flowing over angular frames. He bounced. Brady Street woke him up. The three of us were sitting in the spot where Lady and I had sat the day we decided to move here. Two years later, the strip, the town, the scene had become lost on us. We weren’t city people. We lived in residentia. We had our balcony covered with houseplants that overlooked a sleeping street. We were happy. We came to the city knowing we could leave. When my parents visited, my father didn’t care to see the downtown fireworks for fear of the promised crowd of 600,000 plus. I wondered if this was the direction I was headed.

We stayed until the cake was finished. The bugs were making Lady restless. I was concerned with my bowels. Ben remained indifferent. The remainder of the night was gravy. He was sitting outside a coffee bar nearing midnight on the strangest street he had ever seen. What more did he need?

We crossed through traffic for a peek into the local art gallery. Beside it stood the remnants of a recently dead bookstore. The owner had closed to sell exclusively on the Web. Its disappearance added to the list of memories Lady and I were accumulating of a place we barely knew.

We turned west and began the walk to the car, past the laundromat where I had earlier dropped seven pounds of waste and sweat. People mulled along. A kid of about Ben’s age with an Afro approached us..

“That’s the guy,” Ben whispered. Our strides met.

“Y’all lookin’ for some hash?” he asked. Our feet kept moving.

“We’re all set,” I said.

The Successes and Failures of an Aspiring Handyman

3 Jan

By 

 

Fred got out his trusty toolbox to look for the appropriate screwdriver. Having gotten a new toolbox as a recent holiday present, searching for the perfectly fitted screwdriver was a pleasure. Instead of rushing to grab the right ‘tool for the job’, Fred leisurely pawed through the tray of identically-handled appliances. The handles of all the screwdrivers (seven different sizes) were the same color, beings that they were all purchased from the same company. Fred took newfound pleasure in his matching tool set.

Having rattled the tray of screwdrivers to his momentary satisfaction (there would be time enough for more pawing later), Fred carefully selected the most fitting screwdriver for the job and closed the lid of the toolbox. Most fitting, that is, he hoped. Were it not the correct screwdriver for the job, he’d be obligated to reopen the toolbox and painstakingly peer at the sizes of the remaining six screwdrivers, all still bearing identically-colored handles. What had previously been a dainty pleasure would instantly become a troublesome task, mostly because he’d already put the toolbox back in the closet. The closet was all the way out in the kitchen, and the door to the closet was padlocked. And if Fred wasn’t mistaken, his roommate had just left for work, coincidentally carrying the key ring which bore the key to the closet–which had the toolbox in it.

Hopeful that he’d selected the correct screwdriver, Fred turned to the task-at-hand. The task at hand happened to be some adjustments to his other tools. Exactly two other tools needed adjustments, and these particular adjustments needed to be performed by yet another tool–in this case, a flathead screwdriver. Noticing this, Fred quickly jammed the screwdriver very close to his good eye. Not too close, mind you: he’s already learned his lesson with that other, ‘past-tense’ good eye. Fred simply gets excited when he’s working on a project, especially when it involves new tools.

Fred was elated–he’d selected the right tool for the job. He’d needed a flathead screwdriver to perform adjustments on his other tools, and Fred had perfectly picked the necessary tool. Success, thought Fred. A flathead screwdriver now rested in his open palm. Relaxing his arm a bit, Fred brought the screwdriver back down to the tabletop. The other appliances rested atop the tabletop, and now Fred brought the screwdriver closer to the objects of his fancy. Fred readied himself to do some adjustments.

The first appliance that needed attention was Fred’s new jigsaw. Along with the toolbox full of screwdrivers, Fred had been presented with a brand-new holiday jigsaw, presumably for cutting. Until this point, however, the jigsaw had been an utter failure. Fred hadn’t managed to cut a damn thing with his fancy new jig, and had been feeling rather blue about it. After all, it was the fanciest tool he’d gotten for a holiday gift–no slight on you, identically-handled screwdrivers! Fred just felt that any tool which came with an extension-cord was pretty cool, and deserved to be ‘king of the toolbox’, at least for the time being. While all tools would democratically have their day, Fred had been much inclined to give that honor to the jigsaw first.

After some pouting, Fred had (past-tense) noticed that the jigsaw needed a blade installed–enter the screwdriver. Turning the jigsaw’s packaging over, Fred realized it was obvious in retrospect: all the jigsaw needed was a blade! (It was the box’s diagram of a screwdriver being used to install a blade that had given it all away.) As Fred readied himself to employ the screwdriver in its proper function–in this case, the installation of the jigsaw blade–he smiled, imagining all the fun he and the jigsaw were going to have. It was going to be glorious.

Now ready, Fred applied the screwdriver to the jigsaw, imitating exactly the diagram on the back of the box. Carefully rotating the screwdriver in the counterclockwise direction, Fred hummed his favorite worktime snatch to himself, “Righty tighty, lefty loosy”. Not exactly Kasey Casum material, that, but a fine pneumonic device, thought Fred. Soon Fred stopped humming, because the screw he’d been unscrewing had popped right out of it’s socket, and leapt to the floor.

Generally pleased with the result of his perseverance, Fred retrieved the screw and had it screwed halfway back in before remembering his original purpose. Feeling a bit ridiculous, Fred quickly reversed directions (back toward the Loosy direction) and removed the screw for the second time, taking precaution to catch the would-be-fugitive screw with his hand. Lying the captured screw on the Formica tabletop, Fred now attended to the insertion of the blade.

Easy-cheesy, Fred had the jigsaw back together and status: ready in no time flat. Fred felt his dexterity with the screwdriver had taken a turn for the positive–he’d made very few errors in its use. Plus, once he’d gotten the new jigsaw blade aligned into the correct spot, he’d barely considered how to use the screwdriver. It had been like second nature. Warm with pleasure, Fred revved the motor of his newly prepared jigsaw. It’s satisfying and rather loud motor whined with excitement. Under Fred’s watchful (good) eye, the newly installed blade vibrated rapidly up and down, so rapidly in fact that Fred found it hard to see the blade at all. Without the marksmanship screwing that Fred had done, it was doubtful the blade would have performed so well. Pleasing to see success in action, thought Fred.

Chapter Two: The Adjustable Utility Knife

The next task awaiting Fred and his screwdriver was a modification to his adjustable utility knife. Much like the jigsaw (which had been rather well prepared, Fred thought smugly), the utility knife needed a blade installed. Now that Fred thought about it, many of his holiday gifts had been of the cutting variety. Excluding the screwdrivers, of course. Those possessed an entirely different function.

Emboldened by his recent success with the jigsaw, Fred dove right into the utility knife project. Not such a good idea, Fred was shortly to find. The utility knife was a project of a more advanced nature than the jigsaw, due to the presence of two tightly threaded screws. Smirking silently, Fred scoffed at the idea of two screws impeding an old hand like himself. He’d been the one who’d pulled through during the old jigsaw debacle of ‘99, Fred thought. Humming his trusty pneumonic device in a pleasing way, Fred went ahead and removed not one, but both tightly-threaded screws with minimal of difficulty.

Fred had gotten cocky; now Fred had to pay the price. Upon opening the adjustable utility knife, Fred was confronted with a disconcerting sight: the innards of the knife were covered with a slimy, pink goo! Suspicious that his good eye might be going bad, Fred peered closer at the exposed guts of the knife. No mistaking it however: the knife was filled with some strange, Caucasian-skin-hued substance. Lifting it to his nose, Fred detected no particular odor to the mystery goo. Rather than employing taste as his next sensory experiment, Fred listened to the goo: no verifiable result. Finally (he sure as hell wasn’t going to taste it!), Fred touched the bubbly, pink enigma with his fingertip. Sure enough, the result confirmed his initial suspicions–the stuff was slimy!

Freaked out by this unexpected discovery, Fred decided the best course of action would be to replace the screws into their original threadings, close up the utility knife, and wait for his brother-in-law to get home. Fred wasn’t much of a guy to mess with unknown substances, especially ones that hid inside brand-new holiday tools. And everything had been going so well up until that darn slimy goo, darn it all to heck!

Fairly disappointed by his failure with the adjustable utility knife, Fred half-heartedly revved the engine to his jigsaw and tried to put a good face on the episode.

“I should have remembered the turtle and the hare,” thought Fred.

Every Time

3 Jan

By Scott Neidig November 20, 2004

The two faced cow
From my hometown
Could tell you how
The wind blows South

Huge sunflowers
Tower ever
Stranger as they
Grow together

Two planes
Buzzing overhead
Feel the heat
Up from the dead

Beauty of
The fires glow
Opposite
The heavy blow

The maple leaves
Have been deformed

Clothing has
Been burned and torn

Ghost towns filled
With dirty dust
Hide from site
Away from us

The people say
Don’t stay in there
It’s not useful
Or safe there

Chaos Theory in Politics

3 Jan

by Lach Franquemont

Chaos Theory in Politics:
Being a guerilla ontological attack on Newtonian methodology or otherwise known as pure b.s. from the Chuang-tzu School of Linguistic Clarity.

Tonight the World Series begins between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the New York Yankees. Baseball, of course, is a game where tons of esoteric minutia is studied in order to attempt an accurate prediction of what will happen when one guy hurls a small ball towards another guy holding a stick. Studies from the new age front reveal that baseball announcers are typically reincarnations of fortunetellers and weather forecasters.

This morning the NPR show “Wait, Wait, don’t tell me…” postulated that Arizona’s best chance would come by taking the field nude, thereby sending the Yankees into helpless gales of laughter. I feel that this should be saved for game two when Randy Johnson is on the mound.

Arizona got to the series by beating the Atlanta Braves. Particularly telling was game 4 of the NLCS when in one inning the Braves committed a record 3 errors. Errors in baseball parlance are things that should lead to an out but, due to bad fielding, do not. After the game we were informed that one cause of the bad fielding may have been that in the humid air of Atlanta this time of year, the dew point is usually reached in the early evening, leaving the field soaking wet and slick.

A few years ago, an amazing movie called Pi came out. Filmed for a little more than $20,000 in black and white, it went on to make millions, thereby becoming most likely one of the greatest cinematic fiscal achievements ever. The film told the story of a mentally unbalanced mathematical genius who figures out an equation on his computer that may lead to accurate predictions of the rise and fall of stocks and bonds and the cabalistic answer to the real name of god (one and the same-hum). The result of this is that he becomes the target of an evil syndicate (perhaps government related) and a sect of devout Hasidic Jews. By the end, the viewer is left wondering how much was reality, and how much the result of a deranged mind. Maybe the answer lies in the fact that it was all reality and the result of a deranged mind.

The other day, a friend of mine gave me a button reading patRIOTic. Immediately I related this to Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce. Also related to it is a shirt of her’s reading BUllSHit 2000.

A few years ago I was able to catch an amazing film on “USA up all night.” This film portrayed an apocalyptic vision of the future world devastated by nuclear war. The protagonist of this dramatically complex story was one of the last genetically pure males left, and therefore in much demand by the women of the day who were much less affected somehow than their male counterparts. The mise en scene of the film was astounding and the warning against continuing nuclear escalation was well put. Even greater though was how subtlety the underlying themes of the film were worked into the piece. The protagonist exemplifies the revolutionary spirit, attempting to interject its pure essence into the purer, gentler side of all humanity, represented by the female. With the females, their large, scantily covered breast, represent all that feeds the children of the world and the viewer longs for them to break free of their constraints. In many instances we see the revolutionary spirit freeing those constraints. Unfortunately, due to tuning in late, and being overly affected by a succession of bloody Marys, I have yet to find out the name of this cinematic accomplishment or the name of its talented auteur.

Finally, let us come to the unique case of Mitchell Feigenbaum. Feigenbaum was a scientist at Los Alamos laboratories who was considered a savant by all of the other scientist there. They could bring their most intractable questions and in many cases get great answers but Feigenbaum produced little work of his own. You see, instead of studying quarks or quantum physics, Feigenbaum studied clouds and the whorls of smoke produced by his cigarettes during the different times of day and in differing atmospheric conditions. He is considered one of the founders of Chaos Theory, now accomplishing amazing leaps in all of the natural sciences. It has yet to make its way into mainstream political theory.

Earning Your Writers Certificate

3 Jan

by Dave Jarecki

A glow overtook me upon seeing my name in print for the first time, a strange buzz shooting straight up the spine and settling in the back of my head as I walked and read my article in the tiny independent non paying monthly journal that had decided to bring me aboard fresh out of school as a writer. “There it is,” I said then. “I can call myself a writer now I guess.” I walked home and read it again, sitting in front of a silent television, before stashing the entire paper away in the cardboard box beneath my desk, which is still the most effective form of filing on earth.

In truth, there is no one moment, no signature event, no trumpets and choirs, no bombs blowing and no twenty-one gun salute that marks the beginning of a writing career. I still doubt it to this day, almost three years later, having only published two articles since that first one, being paid now by an ad agency to be a thought monkey, a Copy Writer in fact, that I am a writer. What the hell is a writer anyway?

Some of the best writing I read on an almost weekly basis comes to me in the form of letters from friends, nondescript thoughts put together in the moment, telling stories, painting scenes, blending words together that make the little gears go off in my head, thinking, “man, that’s some great writing.” These people aren’t writers mind you, not in the sense that they’d ever call themselves writers or sit down and try to write a poem, short story, novel, what have you. Still, it’s there, some sort of raw talent that makes me wish they would actually try to do it. Then again, things often get lost in that trying.

I get myself in trouble from time to time, trying to insist that everyone has it in them, the talent of writing, the gift of words, the creative juices flowing that could sit them down with pen and paper and make them tell a tale, their tale, a story for all life that will always exist in form, that can never die once it’s out of one’s head and onto some sort of writing surface, whether it’s the back of a notebook, a table top, or a toilet stall. I find constant disagreement every time I bring this up, whether it’s from someone I’m trying to convince, an innocent bystander, or just someone who says, “Nah, I just can’t do it, you know, like, actually writing, with words and all.” “Sure you can,” I think. “As long as you don’t try.”

People fear, I fear, the entire concept of writing, with concerns over whether or not it’s good, what people will say about it if it’s stupid, or having nothing to say in the first place. I say we’ve all got something to say, something to share, universal stories that may not be all that good but are at least communal in nature, events that cross over boundaries and rest in the realm of shared experiences; voices, in effect, that come from you and me, as the song goes. Still that fear though, that thing that says, “I have no business doing this, I’m not a writer.” I like to say that we’ve all got it, but the more I think about it, maybe we all don’t. It’s like an artist trying to fathom why someone can’t paint.

I suppose one becomes a writer the first time he or she sits down and actually tries to put this thing together, whatever the thing is, in an effort to tell a creative story, five, five thousand, or five million words long. Unfortunately, and wouldn’t this be nice if it happened this way, Walt Whitman doesn’t appear in a smoky haze upon this occurrence, white beard and all, handing you a diploma, announcing your arrival, wishing you well, telling you to keep at it, reminding you that the road ahead is a bumpy one, and informing you that all the muses are pulling for you. Perhaps that would make the whole thing too easy.

Five Poems

3 Jan

by Dave Jarecki

Monday Mornings are Different

Especially with a rain,
always it seems
rain on Monday,
dawn behind clouds
and the city

sleeping
or wanting
of sleep,
all but workers
with walking shoes
and goulashes,
lowered heads

not sad;
so as to say
back at it again,
bed is a long gone dream,
there’s no reason
to be thinking of it now,
like the postman
who crosses with the sign
through my headlights
in the mist,
doesn’t look up
because he knows the way
by the number of steps
he takes.

In a Coffee Shop Anywhere

Scotty and I
used to play
unmiked
in the narrow basement
coffee shop
like you imagine
everyone starting out.
Four times,
the first,
the drunk,
the empty,
the last.

He would bring
his banjo
for part
of the set.
We would alternate
singing
and harmonica.
He was
the better player.

Got a free piece
of pie once,
snicker doodle,
a free can
of soda,
Sprite
(it was too late
those nights
for caffeine,
with a.m. work
to follow).

Tuesdays
in the basement
coffee shop
that probably
isn’t there now,
most likely eaten
by the pizza place
next door.

We never wanted
to be famous,
and we weren’t
very good,
nor bad.
Our voices
rarely harmonized.

We were just looking
for somewhere new to play
besides our apartments.

My love came
to every gig,
and only fell asleep
once.

Show

I once overheard my father refer to me
as his meal ticket.
I was 16, on my way to all-star practice,
spikes and mitt in bag.

He was in the yard with cards and friends
A sure thing, he said,
left handed pitcher, heady, good command,
a can’t miss.

But my fastball never broke 60, my elbow quit
from too much junk.
Years later, yesterday, he sends me clips
of guys I once pitched against

Still toiling in minors, 27, 28-years-old,
late in baseball terms
for a first call. All those guys are at least still playing,
I tell him.

Look at me, I’m home writing poetry.
Yeah, he says,
those guys are washed up. You’re just beginning. Ah Dad
it’s nice to know you still believe.

Lunch with Brothers

I’ve read
you shouldn’t occupy
a table
alone during a meal
with more than
2 empty seats,
for fear
the empties
would remind you
of those absent

ghosts of old Sunday
warm the bones meals
on days such as these.

With 2 chairs and me
over soup
I think
of my brothers
and 2 empty chairs
at their tables
where they eat lunch
in Northeastern cold
as I do
near Midwestern windows.

This isn’t
a heartsick
or lonesome thought,
nor one of those
melodramatic
remembrances
near fogged glass
of a Rockwell portrait;
not even particularly

American.

Just the reminder
of two grown men
I barely see
as I spoon
soup onto bread,
guide pieces to mouth,
a bit on the chin.

Let’s Write of War Today

“You’re lucky. You have
a war to write about”

So old women
have relevant
and topical
discussions.

Grocery store savings
won’t do
on today’s
gray morning.

Okay, let’s try.

In print,
over radio
news of our crying
President
proved believable,
considering
he was addressing
fathers and brothers
of the recently dead.

You mean
we’ll actually

lose some men?

‘Fraid so.

Well, that’s war.

It certainly is.

In another time zone
they’ve stopped
running death tolls,
have moved
to daily numbers.

45
isn’t bad
for a Friday.

I’m writing this
in red pen
beneath clouds
in the bubble
where I live.

On the way here
I thought I heard
my breaks squealing,
though wasn’t sure
so turned off
the news.
They were discussing
a nuclear future.

Short range,
for snuffing ‘em
out of caves
with minimal
radiation
damage.

Precisely.

I only wished
the engine
had gone
ablaze
to justify
my desire
to run
from the car
screaming.

Easing to the red,
brakes silent,
momentary tragedy
averted.

I made it here.
We all
made it here.

Good God
we’re here
again

without
so much
as a side-eyed glare
from terrorists
two cars
over.

We used to laugh
at cinematic depictions
of Arabs
buying plutonium.
Now they’re
selling us
this stuff.

Crazed world.

Communists
wanted
to make us
wait
in line
for bread,
a relatively
harmless
fate.

The rain
has turned
to snow.
Lousy March,
a great
31 day
tease.
I feel

like March.
I am
March,

going

nowhere,
neither winter
nor spring.

They’re playing baseball
in Florida.
I’m not Florida
either.
I’m March,
gray slacks
writing war
drifting

in and out
of kitchen conversation,
the old women
switching

to instant messaging,
and the waitress
taking my cup,

code

for

Why

are you
still here?

Strange Sense of Patriotism

24 Nov

by Dave Jarecki

“So now as I’m leavin’ I’m weary as Hell.
The confusion I’m feelin’ ain’t no tongue can tell.
The words fill my head and fall to the floor.
If God’s on our side He’ll stop the next war”
(Bob Dylan)

I’ve got the unnerving urge to drop myself in front of the first television I find and watch the nothing unfold, the ongoing nothing that has become news enough: The pile is getting smaller, they’ve found black boxes, the war will be long and painful. The throngs of New York rescue workers appear as yellow striped ants on the screen. I’ve soured myself for three days at work, watching the wreckage, the cleanup, the cloud that hangs over Manhattan. The TV runs in continuous loops in the office kitchen, sitting atop the refrigerator like a static target. Someone changed the channel to a new talking head once it was decided by two resident conservatives that Pete Jennings was a “liberal jack-ass” who needed to go back to Canada, once the border reopened. Now we watch the same news under a different label.

Lady and I lay in bed, put on the radio, our prime and only news source in the apartment. The ease of the Internet is gone until Monday morning. No web articles from the New York Times Online, no more graphically jarring imagery showing the minute by minute replay of how and when the buildings fell. I’ll wait with trusted friends and voices that live in the small box beside the bed.

The radio plays the same nothing of course, minus the visuals, a nothing that, despite its nothingness, keeps us listening, waiting. A coworker said it well the day after the attacks, a disturbing truth existing in his dark joke.

“This is kind of boring,” he said as eight of us shared lunch around the TV like a docile American family. “Yesterday at least things were happening.” We all laughed, painfully and despite ourselves. Then we told him he was going to hell. He agreed with a mouthful of sandwich.

Lady says she’s heard the radio story already. I flick it off. In a minute it’s back on. The voice is somehow soothing.

Yesterday I told Lady I’d fight if I were drafted. She instantly stood up to the notion. I’m to be her hero only. In a hijack situation, I’m to not even consider resisting the assailants. I do though, in daydreams, creating situations behind closed, conscious eyes, my innate Americanism saying don’t go down without a fight. I’m not a fighter. I only play one in my mind.

“What if I could get us to Canada and you could hide?” she asked.

“I wouldn’t want to. I couldn’t go.”

“Then I wouldn’t be with you,” she said. We both asked why.

“You’d let me go to some war alone?” I asked.

“You’d leave me here by myself?” she answered.

We paused at the wall, unwilling to pursue it.

Our lead designer at work has been listening to AM talk radio in the office, in his customized low-rider, at home. He’s a dj who, before Tuesday, wasn’t aware there existed an AM option on the dial, had never felt a twinge toward politics. Now he and I linger at the television when we can, sit in the kitchen well past our hour lunches. At his computer, he’s designing an e-mail in the hopes of getting it sent around the world: A still shot of Palestinians caught in celebration upon learning of the attacks. He’s drawn a laser scope around the image. He wants me to help him come up with a tag line. He, another designer and myself stand around the screen and pass insults directed toward those in the picture back and forth, insults one step short of basic racism, then taking the step. I walk away. It’s all anger. I’m not thinking. The image and others of the sort that began floating across the airwaves within hours of the second implosion could be stock photos from months ago, years, from another moment or celebration, that were dropped on us now to build up hostility. Early conspiracies I had begun to hear could hold face, those that said the CIA knew what was about to happen, that it was a ploy that would lead to the eventual willing away of our civil liberties. The weight of the thought flushes my head empty.

In bed, the radio program pauses at the half-hour mark for latest updates. A plane flies 28,000 feet above our apartment. The distant roar is a welcome intrusion.

We are all meant to light candles tonight. The air in Wisconsin will be still when we do. We are all to report to our chosen deity and say a prayer. God will be listening, in English, Spanish, Chinese, to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists. God is American tonight. Nothing else matters.

I ask Lady about conspiracies. She wants no part of them. I ask her about patriotism. She reminds me of the peace sign she drew that hangs on the fridge. I tell her they’ll probably rebuild atop the rubble. She says they should keep it open, turn it into the park. I don’t bring up the draft again. We’d miss the mark on that as well.

“I wouldn’t want to be a New York fireman or rescue worker right now, seeing all that, digging through all the death,” I say.

Lady lays on her stomach with her face between two pillows.

“I wouldn’t want to be a Muslim woman with two children trying to shop for groceries getting chased out of the store,” she says. “That would be worse.”

We quiet and wait for the news.

Birds and Bikes

23 Nov

by Royce Clay

i thought that it would take a long time to ride my first bike. Boy was i right. i had always admired the shiny new bicycles of the neighborhood kids. i saw them ride them by me all fast and new and the shine would nearly blind me. i would shield my eyes with a cupped hand and mutter, “damn those bike are shiny” i muttered it because one time i was too loud and then the shiny bike owner gave me a bloody nose.

But anyway the day finally came when i was the big boy in the neighborhood. Here i was, standing on the Christmas tree, sneering down at my stupid parents who had continually snubbed my request for fantastic shininess and speediness and all that stuff that is a bike. Standing there with needles in my crotch and leg, i laughed a hearty old one as my parents took their Christmas morning napper. i scowled, sneered, yelled, and then jumped high into the air, landing squarely on the new bike’s seat that the real santa claus had given me.

Burning rug, i tore out that muddafukka like my name was Robert. Fat old bags didn’t even hear me when i crashed though the glass door that led me to shiny freedom. The world outside was a-sparkle with elevtric lights and yelling birds. “squak squak gimme a fukkin carrot” i muttered at the birds. i swear those damned things were gonna pay for their incessant callings for more food. i swear, clearcut the earth, get the place a little cleaner, no more bird shit on the new shinies.

Well the tires on the bike were heating up, my face upturned to the mute sun, smile, growing larger as every bit of blood rushed to my leg pushing pedal. i was dismayed, as you might have guessed, that there were no other shinies to witness my triumph of bike and bird.

i was a small man, i had nothing to my bone but meal and meat. i had made the most of the sixpack i was born with, but that made no difference as far as fast bikes go. i could push the pedals as fast as i wanted to today, with both legs, and no shine would emit. That’s what a holiday season can do to a boy’s spirit. Crush it like a dead bird under a slippery tire. Run over that roadkill, return home? Not this kid. “i’m outta here!” i yelled as the pedals spun faster and faster. The ditch wasn’t far away now. Yeah sure i was young, but not too young to die. That’s what bikes are all about to me.